10+ ways to be nicer to the environment in 2018

A new year can feel like a new start in many ways and many of us consider it a time to change our habits, from taking better care of ourselves to taking better care of the world around us.

I asked Islanders on Facebook to share their tips for being kinder to the environment in 2018, as well as Gary Schneider, the head of the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I., and Carolyn Peach Brown, an associate professor and the director of Environmental Studies at UPEI.

1. Buy less stuff

"We often hear about reduce, reuse, recycle but we put more emphasis on the last R rather than the first two," Peach Brown said.

"We need to be conscious consumers first of all by accumulating less stuff."

2. Less packaging

Avoid buying products with excessive packaging and plastics, Peach Brown and Schneider both advise. Use your own shopping bags to reduce plastic consumption.

3. Share

Share things like vehicles, appliances and yard equipment with others.

4. Buy used

If you need something you can't borrow or share — think furniture and everyday clothing — buy it second-hand.

"If you have to buy new, look for quality products that are sustainably produced," Schneider suggests.

5. Eat seasonally and locally

Eating produce in season supports local growers and lessens the environmental impact because it means less transportation and less refrigeration, said both Peach Brown and Schneider.

Schneider suggests supporting local organic growers, though recent research has suggested eating organically and locally really won't change your carbon footprint.

6. Grow your own

Grow some of your own food, Schneider suggests.

7. Stop idling

Don't idle your car to warm it up in the morning, Peach Brown advises. "Reducing your idling time reduces carbon emissions that are harmful to the environment."

Some cities, including Charlottetown, have installed vehicle tracking systems to reduce emissions from idling and save money.

8. Use active transportation

Walk or bike when the weather permits, use public transit if available and try to car pool with others to work or to do errands, Peach Brown said.

9. Speak up

"Don't be afraid to voice your opinion — environmental degradation often happens because people are too intimidated to speak up," Schneider said.

10. Understand your energy use

"Understand your energy usage," Schneider said. "Can you insulate and caulk your home better instead of pumping more heat into the outdoors. Can you car share instead of going it alone?"

What you said

"I put a knife, fork, spoon and straw (all metal, not plastic) in an old makeup bag and threw it in my purse. Great for when I'm eating on the run and get offered plastic utensils," shared Ghislaine O'Hanley of Charlottetown.

"I have reusable bags in all vehicle trunks," said Loanne MacKay.

"I use water from my dehumidifier to water plants, bushes and trees all summer and into the fall," said Eleanor Boswell.

Many commenters shared that they wash out and reuse baggies. "I've turned into my grandmother," joked Carole Betts.

"I air dry most of my laundry on a rack in the house and only finish off some items in the dryer on medium heat if they are a bit too wrinkled," said Shelley Gordon, one of many who said they share this practice.

Keith Burgoyne bikes to work from April to December, then takes the bus the rest of the year. "We also installed new doors and insulated our attic with spray foam in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint," he said.

Dale Sorenson even takes his own glass containers to Bulk Barn, where they weigh and mark the container before he shops, then set the scale back accordingly at the checkout.

Sustainable clothing

"Teaching my kids that we are part of nature, maintaining a vegan diet, supporting local producers, purchasing sustainable clothing made with organic and recycled materials," are ways Stanley Chaisson said he's trying to walk more lightly on the earth.

Chaisson favours clothing from social enterprise companies including Patagonia, Tenfed and tentree which he purchases online and in local stores. tentree says it plants 10 trees for every item purchased. At $50 for a T-shirt and $75 for a hoodie, their products are on the expensive side, but Chaisson says "we all know it is the right thing to do and worth it."

Donna Pound Bernard said she is adamant about shopping locally, believing online shopping wastes carbon on trucking and packaging (there does not appear to be a definitive study of which produces more emissions).

Others shared they have reduced or eliminated meat consumption, buy furniture and clothing secondhand, shop locally, grow their own food, use programmable thermostats and ask for tap water when eating out.

"Always a work in progress," commented Courtney Sudsbury of her ongoing efforts to improve her carbon footprint.

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